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Law should guarantee neutral military: expert

Military personnel line up before the commencement of a training exercise in Kampong Speu in 2014.
Military personnel line up before the commencement of a training exercise in Kampong Speu in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Law should guarantee neutral military: expert

Outspoken legal expert Sok Sam Oeun has called for the military to distance itself from politics – a separation he says should be enshrined in law.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Sam Oeun wrote that for a “strong democracy” the armed forces should be banned from joining a political party.

“When the law allows the military to be members of political parties as well, it means the military takes part in politics, so the military won’t be neutral,” he wrote.

Reached yesterday, Sam Oeun clarified that military members would still be able to vote in elections, but should not be card-carrying party members, to keep their role independent.

“If they want to do politics, they should resign,” he said.

The comments come amid repeated admonishments from high-ranking security officials to guard the government against “colour revolutions”.

Sok Ey San, CPP spokesperson, however, said the armed forces were already neutral.

“In case there are political parties or any forces that want to overthrow the legal elected government, in that case armed forces will defend the government,” he said.

But independent rights consultant Billy Tai said that although the army is generally seen as “very much aligned with the CPP”, enforced separation “would be a band-aid solution”, likely offering the appearance of neutrality without addressing underlying biases.

Additional reporting by Erin Handley

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